Skip to main content
Supreme Court of the United States

7 Masterful Quotes That Sum Up Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s Approach to Life and Law

October 17, 2017

By: Emily Conley



Alliance Defending Freedom is saddened by the sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday morning. Alan Sears, ADF President, CEO and General Counsel, said “Justice Scalia was the most vocal and passionate voice on the Supreme Court for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family over the past three decades. While we grieve his passing, we must always remember that God is in charge. We also note that it is unlikely that a new justice will be installed prior to the election of our next president.”



Since Justice Scalia’s appointment to the Supreme Court almost 30 years ago, Scalia championed “orginalism,” or “textualism,” as he preferred to call it, the idea that the words of the Constitution should be interpreted as the Founders intended when writing them. He directly opposed the growing prevalence of interpreting the Constitution as a living, evolving document which could mean whatever the jurists of the day wanted it to mean,  and vehemently defended a government that recognized the ultimate authority of the people, not an elite panel of unelected judges, to establish laws.

He was well-known for his sharp wit and sometimes scathing dissents. He’s called decisions and opinions “sheer applesauce,” “interpretive jiggery-pokery,” “absurd,” “implausible speculation,” and “a naked judicial claim.”

But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said of him once, “As annoyed as you might be about his zinging dissent, he's so utterly charming, so amusing, so sometimes outrageous, you can't help but say ‘I'm glad that he's my friend’ or ‘he's my colleague.’”

In her statement after his passing this weekend, Justice Ginsburg summed up his jovial personality and talent: “He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.… He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.”

Choosing only a few quotes of his proved to be a challenge, but here are seven that define his approach to life and law:

 “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job.” CBS News

“More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly.” NY Post

 “It is difficult to maintain the illusion that we are interpreting a Constitution, rather than inventing one, when we amend its provisions so breezily.” Bloomberg

“Bear in mind that brains and learning, like muscle and physical skill, are articles of commerce. They are bought and sold. You can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing in the world not for sale is character.” New York Times

 “Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.” California Laywer

“A man who has made no enemies is probably not a very good man.” Business Insider

“God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools...and He has not been disappointed....If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.” Washington Times

Listen below as ADF attorneys Jordan Lorence and Matt Bowman discuss the major themes of Antonin Scalia's time on the US Supreme Court, how his death will impact cases currently before the court, and why there should not be a new justice nominated until a new administration is in place: 

Justice Antonin Scalia will be greatly missed, but he leaves behind an enduring legacy as one of the most-influential justices of all time. “All of us are thankful for Justice Scalia’s legacy of consistently standing in defense of our constitutionally protected freedoms,” said Alan Sears.

Please join us in prayer for the Scalia family, the Supreme Court, and the future of our nation.

Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith

Professor Meriwether Cancel Culture
WATCH: How One Professor Beat Cancel Culture

Our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion not only include the freedom to speak messages in accordance with our core beliefs but also the freedom not to speak messages against our core beliefs.

Life is Worth It Dobbs
Why Life is Worth Protecting

Life is worth it because all life has immeasurable worth and value, and the value of any human life is not contingent upon the amount of hardship, pain, or heartache one may go through.

Downtown Hope Center Alaska
How One Homeless Shelter is Protecting Vulnerable Women and Standing Up for Religious Freedom

Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, while focusing on protecting vulnerable women at night. They should be free to do so according to their religious beliefs.